LATTE: Cain & Abel

Here is a simple use of the LATTE paradigm to interpret the passage of Genesis 4. It’s not exhaustive, but hopefully more balanced than some of the exegesis that passes today.

Literal (‘according to the letter’): God warned Cain that sin and temptation was crouching at the door, waiting for him, but he had to resist it.

Though many aspects of the text could be commented upon, Cain was ultimately unwilling to live for his Lord, unloving of his neighbor, and tried to place blame elsewhere as he commits the first murder.

Anagogical (end, purpose, direction): Anagogically, relating to heaven, and the end times, we await a world where perfect justice is served, for it certainly is not here on earth.

We also await a time where people truly fulfill God’s law to truly and purely love their neighbor as themselves.

Regarding Abel, we are assured that he will be honored in God’s presence, while Cain not so.

Tropological (moral aspects for today): We should not murder, nor persecute any human being as such. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Christian answer is “Yes”, you are your brother’s keeper. Murder is not acceptable, nor is hatred, and all sin awaits us.

Typological (patterns and types): The Cain and Abel story ‘rhymes’ with many other stories in the Bible. A replay of it happens later on in Genesis, with Esau trying to kill Jacob, Joseph’s brothers doing almost the same thing, and Rachel and Leah’s rivalry revolving around hating their own sibling, someone they are so close with.

Abel was a persecuted prophet, as Jesus says, “From the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matthew 23:35).

From the blood of Abel, the first martyr, to Zechariah, the Israelite people persecuted essentially every one of the prophets. Jesus ultimately is like Abel as well, being a martyr, though living for God, killed by those within his own family, who should have loved him.

Emblematic (symbolic meaning): One of the emblematic aspects of this text is that this is the extreme way we want to treat our brothers and sisters too. Abel’s life represents life and the world at its most unfair, how brief it is and how Cain lived on even marked and protected by God for some reason. “Why do the wicked prosper?”

And, as is picked up in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes, life is ‘hevel’, the same term for ‘Abel’, vapor, mist, futility. As is in Song of Songs, expressed in the most intimate of relationships, we are to be “our brother’s keeper” (1:6).

Both Solomonic books, within the first few chapters make allusion to the Cain and Abel account. Cain represents the part of the human consciousness that craves to desire and possess, and the violence is that desire taken to its most natural end. For such reason Jesus says even hating your brother is murder.

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